Thus Spake Zuska

If The Force Actually Existed…

A reader sent me a link to this d00dly graph, What The Force Would Be Used For If It Actually Existed. If you don’t want to bother to click through, the answer is: greater than 50%, pulling the remote to you because it is too far away; insignificant percentage, actually making a difference in the universe; all the remaining percentage, persuading women to undress. Wait, I can’t keep typing because I’m laughing so, so much. Oh, those clever d00ds.

My correspondent wrote:

This is rather disturbing if you think about it. Using coercion to “persuade” a woman to undress: shades of rape culture?

Hey, that is totally what the force is for!

Well, clearly, the implied viewing audience for the graph, and putative possessors of the force, are heterosexual males*. That’s dominant patriarchal discourse for you.

If the force actually existed, I’d devote 95% of my usage (the other 5% is for retrieving my glasses from wherever I last set them down) to persuading mansplainers to stop talking and listen for a change. I’m not sure if the force is that strong, though. But it would be good times, AND count as actually making a difference in the universe!

*the kind, no doubt, who can take a joke. Unlike hairy-legged feminazis, who have no sense of humor.

Comments

  1. #1 Tamara
    April 28, 2010

    Retrieving my four year old from high places. Retrieving other items (keys, contraceptives, medications, money) from high places where my much taller husband has put them in an effort to keep them away from said four year old.

    Retrieving items from the top shelf at the grocery store.

    Persuading my students that math really isn’t that scary.

    Persuading my ten year old that math really isn’t that scary.

    (If Yoda grade power) Parallel parking.

    The man of the house says…Holding open doors when my hands are full and fishing socks out from behind the dryer.

    Tamara

  2. #2 catgirl
    April 29, 2010

    Yes, apparently women would never even have the force, because we’re not actually people. Or if we did have the force, we’d use it to make other women undress just to please men or something like that. Clearly the author of this graph knows that women exist because he would use the force to see them naked against their will, but it never occurred to him that women might actually do something with the force.

    If I had the force, I’d use it to make people realize that women exist and we have our own thoughts and we’re actually people.

  3. #3 Michelle
    April 29, 2010

    Maybe I’m a guy (with a vag), but I think this is funny – even though I shave my legs only…once a month? Of course guys want to see us naked. Of course they wish it was easier…but it’s not…for most of us who aren’t literally prostitutes.
    I don’t see how this is any different than my fantasies, which are ridiculously, but totally and imperfectly, human.

    Of course we wish that things that we truly desire were more easily obtained. Imagine, if you will, a situation in which you could will someone to give you tenure.

  4. #4 ginger
    April 29, 2010

    I don’t think I’d waste The Force trying to make anyone do anything. I would use it to file the million papers in my office and then find the ones I need; summon my keys, purse, wallet and phone to the thousand places they wander; and then that difference in the universe thing.

  5. #5 SargassoSea
    April 29, 2010

    I’d use it to persuade doods to keep their hands, dicks and hi-larious ‘jokes’ to themselves.

    But that’d fall into the *making an actual difference in the universe* pie though, wouldn’t it?

  6. #6 skeptifem
    April 29, 2010

    #3- A few things…

    1. It is a fantasy where her non consent is an element. It is about getting something out of someone when they would not want to otherwise. When the option is available to fantasize about willing partners, instead of ones fooled into a vulnerable position, it seems worthy of critique and discussion. Especially when we are all expected to laugh about this, and jokes of this sort are made all the time.

    2. The fact that women are forced, coerced, or tricked into sexual situations of varying seriousness constantly makes it trickier to joke about. We are groped, flashed, raped, harassed, stalked, etc. The joke about how fun it would be for d00ds to use the force to achieve that kind of crap more conveniently when they do it every day without the force doesn’t seem very funny to me.

  7. #7 James Davis
    April 29, 2010

    I don’t know, as in many situations where a joke is interpreted as sexist, racist, ableist, etcetera, I believe that this fails to appreciate what humour is doing when it makes social commentary.

    The given graph claims that most men (I’ll concede that women with the force are ignored by the graph.) would use the force for finding the remote and forcing women to undress.

    It’s good humour precisely because it directly and immediately reveals and targets the rape culture, refusing to hide it behind the veil of male silence about rape. Furthermore, it juxtaposes the rape culture with something just as wasteful of something that would be as great a power as the Force.

    All things considered, I’d say this joke is funny precisely because it’s accurate. A lot of heterosexual men would waste the force and use it to further their ‘sexual conquests’, and that’s funny because it’s foolish, wasteful, and wrong.

  8. #8 Tamara
    April 29, 2010

    #3–Oh yeah,I forgot, reaching all those inconvenient spots while shaving.

    2 semirelevant comments, one male/female, the other more fantasy/geeky.

    First: This is not a real poll. What results would we get from polling actual people–and not locking them into d00dly multiple choice answers? Would that say more about who we are as a species?

    Second: (apologies in advance for being a geek). It seems obvious to me that psychic coercion by itself is a rape trope in many instances–whether it’s worse or not than physical assault would depend on context–but not everyone is nerdy enough to have really thought it through. Coercing my husband or children to do chores would be bad enough already.

  9. #9 Rev Matt
    April 29, 2010

    I’m going to side with those who find this funny for the same reason James notes. The vast majority of d00dz would most certainly use the force for idiotic or exploitative purposes and only a sliver (overestimated in the graph, IMO) would do anything worthwhile with it. Only the truth is funny.

  10. #10 Cara
    April 29, 2010

    It’s good humour

    Um, no.

    precisely because it directly and immediately reveals and targets the rape culture, refusing to hide it behind the veil of male silence about rape. Furthermore, it juxtaposes the rape culture with something just as wasteful of something that would be as great a power as the Force.

    Because men are so silent about rape and there’s such a taboo among men about joking about it. Riiiiight.

    All things considered, I’d say this joke is funny

    Wrong-o.

    precisely because it’s accurate. A lot of heterosexual men would waste the force and use it to further their ‘sexual conquests’, and that’s funny because it’s foolish, wasteful, and wrong.

    A) It’s not funny, and B) calling it “foolish, wasteful, and wrong” is an extraordinarily absurd understatement. Also, C) rape and voyeurism =/= “sexual conquests”. Just so ya know. HTH.

  11. #11 Zuska
    April 29, 2010

    When I first started thinking about this hi-larious graph, I considered an argument similar to that put forth by James Davis and echoed by Rev Matt: the graph maker meant it as sarcastic commentary on what stupid d00dz would do with the force should it actually exist. It’s still a hilarity fail for the reasons Cara outlines. But in addition: the title of the graph is not “What Sad Sack Sexist Hetero D00dz Would Do If The Force Actually Existed And They Were The Only Ones Who Had It”. It’s “What The Force Would Be Used For If It Actually Existed” and the resulting graph implies that it is straight men who would have the force, AND that they would all be interested in coercing women to shed their clothing for the gratification of the force-wielders.

    When we are encouraged to laugh at such “harmless” jokes, we are not just encouraged to laugh at the exploitation of women and to continue viewing them as sexual meatbags placed on earth for the viewing pleasure of men. We are also encouraged to continue thinking of men – ALL men – as slavering beasts ruled by the crudest of biological urges, who cannot be asked to use their otherwise vaunted rational, logical brains to identify women as human beings.

    Alas – it seems the joke is also on you, men. The question is why you continue to find this version of yourselves so funny.

  12. #12 rob
    April 29, 2010

    I would use the force to be chosen as this month’s Miss April cause that’s like a compliment I’ll remember for as long as I can. even though now I’m a freshman in my fourth year at UCLA, and probably wouldn’t need to, i would use it to become a veterinarian cause I love children.

  13. #13 becca
    April 29, 2010

    Alas, if I had The Force, it would be boring.
    “These aren’t the boobs you’re looking for!”

    “It’s “What The Force Would Be Used For If It Actually Existed” and the resulting graph implies that it is straight men who would have the force”
    True. Although it’s barely possible that this was intended to be taken in context- i.e. what the force would be used for if it actually existed, and it was Luke Skywalker and Yoda who had the force. And we all know what a creepy perv Yoda was.

    “men – ALL men – as slavering beasts ruled by the crudest of biological urges, who cannot be asked to use their otherwise vaunted rational, logical brains to identify women as human beings.”
    Well men- ALL men- who are Star Wars fanbois, perhaps.

  14. #14 Zuska
    April 29, 2010

    Alas, if I had The Force, it would be boring.
    “These aren’t the boobs you’re looking for!”

    Becca FTW!

  15. #15 catgirl
    April 29, 2010

    I don’t see how this is any different than my fantasies, which are ridiculously, but totally and imperfectly, human.

    The difference is that your fantasies were completely overlooked, as though they (and you) don’t even exist. It is assumed that the default viewer of this graph is male, and women’s fantasies aren’t even taken into consideration. Even a simple “women/men” in place of just “women” would have a made a huge difference, just by acknowledging that straight women and gay mean actually exist and have their own fantasies.

  16. #16 Andreas Johansson
    April 30, 2010

    Alas – it seems the joke is also on you, men.

    “Also”? I’d thought it clear that men are the primary target here. The view on women implied is not complimentary, but they’re hardly the butt of the joke – the (supposed) overwhelming majority of men who are lazy and sex-crazed are.

    As for why lots of people enjoy jokes at their own expense I don’t know, but it can hardly be news to anyone that they do – self-deprecatory humour is all over the ‘Net.

  17. #17 Comrade Svilova
    April 30, 2010

    The joke both insults men by implying that they’re stupid, wasteful losers with rape fantasies AND normalizes those qualities as natural or inescapable aspects of being XY.

    Andreas Johansson, ultimately the joke isn’t “self-deprecating” even though it portrays men poorly. It’s normalizing rather than critical; “aw shucks, that’s what we’re really like, haha.” Only people in power can look at their own sociopathic behavior and laugh it off. And seeking to forcibly undress an unwilling partner IS somewhat sociopathic.

    To echo Zuska: We are also encouraged to continue thinking of men – ALL men – as slavering beasts ruled by the crudest of biological urges, who cannot be asked to use their otherwise vaunted rational, logical brains to identify women as human beings.

    It’s an abdication of the responsibility to ask for and expect more from men. It says that men being idiots and sexual predators is hilarious rather than tragic. So although it insults the same people who “tell” the joke, the message is “don’t see this as bad! This is just How Things Are. And How Things Are is ultimately just a gas.”

  18. #18 Andreas Johansson
    April 30, 2010

    Comrade Svilova wrote:

    Andreas Johansson, ultimately the joke isn’t “self-deprecating” even though it portrays men poorly. It’s normalizing rather than critical; “aw shucks, that’s what we’re really like, haha.

    I don’t want to get into a big semantic argument here, but I don’t think “self-deprecating” implies being critical. Most online jokes of the “omg we’re so nerdy” variety, frex, reinforces nerdiness rather than undermines it, yet they’re commonly refered to as “self-deprecating”.

    Only people in power can look at their own sociopathic behavior and laugh it off.

    This has been established how?

    And seeking to forcibly undress an unwilling partner IS somewhat sociopathic.

    More than somewhat, methinks.

    I expressed surprise at Zuska’s apparent assumptions that i) anyone would think that the joke’s not on men and ii) men who realize the joke’s on them would therefore not think it funny. It doesn’t follow I disagree the joke perpetuates patriarchal assumptions.

    I do not quite understand your last bit, because I am unfamiliar with the idiom that something is “just a gas”.

  19. #19 Comrade Svilova
    April 30, 2010

    Ah, Andreas, I just assumed that when you used “self-deprecating” you meant “acceptable,” since a lot of times when I criticize jokes I find offensive, I’m told that because the jokes are “self-deprecating” they can’t be offensive.

    And regarding my interpretation of the power-dynamics around jokes, I’m thinking of Freud, who asserted that jokes were usually against Power, but found himself stumped when it came to sexist jokes which target the powerless perhaps more than the system. And the question this raises for me is whether many jokes ultimately function to reinforce the system by normalizing it. For more: The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious.

    And “just a gas” means “very silly” or “hilarious.” I was going to just use “hilarious” but I’d used it before and didn’t want to be repetitive.

    Sorry for misinterpreting your comment; I hope we’ve reached a better understanding.

  20. #20 Michelle
    April 30, 2010

    As far as the rape reference is concerned, I wonder what the difference is between force and persuasion in y’all’s eyes? To me, persuasion is the act of convincing someone to do something and force is doing it against their will. The pie chart says persuade women to undress. Not make their clothes fly off of them. Am I missing the point?

  21. #21 Mu
    April 30, 2010

    Since, in the movies at least, the force is used either as hypnosis type “mind control” or as a brute, physical force, there’s no persuasion (as in gaining consent in the true meaning) involved. You could imagine impressing a girl by juggling 10 balls without touching, but I don’t think this is part of the equation.

  22. #22 Andreas Johansson
    April 30, 2010

    @Comrade Svilova: Thanks for the clarification.

    I’m distinctly skeptical of Freudianism, but can’t claim to have deeply considered the interplay of power and humour.

    @Michelle: In the context of what people would do if they had Force powers, “persuade” presumably means using Jedi mind tricks, AKA mind control.

    I guess it’s possible the creator meant wooing the women with spectacular party tricks.

  23. #23 Comrade Svilova
    April 30, 2010

    Personally, if I say “no” once, that should be all I need to do to reject some dude’s request. Many guys don’t agree, and when a woman says “no” they think that it’s an invitation for them to practice their masterful powers of persuasion to convince her to change her mind. It’s annoying at best, and at worst, it becomes an incredible pressure for the woman to do things she’s not comfortable doing. I’ve had far too many experiences of being constantly pressured by a boyfriend “persuading” me to do something I didn’t want to do. When I finally gave in, it was degrading and humiliating.

    Coming from these personal experiences, this is why I support the “Yes is Yes” movement that focuses on enthusiastic consent rather than focusing on whether or not the woman said “no.” Because if the question is “did she say no?” then many men will take that as an invitation to pressure/persuade women to change their minds and grudgingly agree to something. The question should be “did she enthusiastically consent?”

    Using The Force to make a woman change her mind about stripping is even more extreme than simply nagging her day after day. But in either case, one “no” should end the conversation. Absolutely.

  24. #24 Comrade Svilova
    April 30, 2010

    (That was in response to the question about the difference between rape and persuasion. There is a difference, of course, but I would argue that both are along the same continuum of beliefs that Men Have Rights To Women’s Bodies.)

  25. #25 SKM
    April 30, 2010

    My take is that this is definitely a joke that perpetuates the status quo by normalizing it, to borrow Comrade S.’s words. So even if it is self-deprecating, it is conveniently so.

    I see James and Rev Matt’s point, but I disagree. This sort of joke not only normalizes pathological behavior; it is also a joke of the cowardly “play both sides” sort that is so popular now. That is, the joke can be interpreted as critical of the status quo, or just laughed along with by mainstreamers uncritical of power and privilege. The joke failed to commit 100% to social critique, as Zuska clarified in her comment about other ways the graph could have been titled.

    A lot of pseudo-”ironic” hipster comedy does this these days. One can laugh at people with less power, then claim one was “being ironic” when called on it. As I said–cowardly. Not to mention lazy.

  26. #26 Cara
    April 30, 2010

    The view on women implied is not complimentary, but they’re hardly the butt of the joke – the (supposed) overwhelming majority of men who are lazy and sex-crazed are.

    Don’t think so. It seems more of a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to the men.

    As for why lots of people enjoy jokes at their own expense I don’t know, but it can hardly be news to anyone that they do – self-deprecatory humour is all over the ‘Net.

    (snip)

    Most online jokes of the “omg we’re so nerdy” variety, frex, reinforces nerdiness rather than undermines it, yet they’re commonly refered to as “self-deprecating”.

    So, Andreas, you’ve just backtracked on your own point. It’s NOT an insult to men, it’s meant to be a joke for the boyz amongst themselves. Wink wink.

    As far as the rape reference is concerned, I wonder what the difference is between force and persuasion in y’all’s eyes? To me, persuasion is the act of convincing someone to do something and force is doing it against their will. The pie chart says persuade women to undress. Not make their clothes fly off of them. Am I missing the point?

    “Michelle”, what are you saying, here? ‘Cause it sounds a bit like you’re pretty eager to find this funny and to tell others that they’re being too sensitive, or something.

  27. #27 Cara
    April 30, 2010

    SO ANNOYING–the stuff starting “snip” and ending “self-deprecating” is part of what Andreas said in another comment.

    Why can’t we add stuff in the tags and have it format correctly? Bleh.

  28. #28 Michelle
    May 1, 2010

    Cara,

    If I ran across this cartoon on my own, I would have pictured a guy living in his mothers basement who had never seen a real woman undress and who fantasized about there being an easier way to achieve that. I’m not eager to find this funny. As I said in my first post, I do find this funny. The reason is because it’s dorky, and pathetic, and it brings to my mind a socially inept guy who speaks Klingon, or something, to his geeky cohorts and can’t find the courage to speak to women, much less seduce them. If only there were an easier way! It doesn’t bring a rapist to mind, and I do agree that rape is not funny.

    Zuska offered a perspective that I don’t share. Others here share the same perspective. I am not trying to tell anyone what to think, that their feelings are invalid, or that they are overly sensitive. It’s simply that I don’t share the perspective of the majority, so I am asking questions to gain a better understanding. Hope that clarifies.

  29. #29 Comrade Svilova
    May 1, 2010

    a guy living in his mothers basement who had never seen a real woman undress and who fantasized about there being an easier way to achieve that

    Michelle, your description of a dorky loser fantasizing about getting to see a naked woman actually encapsulates exactly what bothers me about this joke. To me, the cartoon is problematic because:

    1.) it seems to be based on the assumption that all men — no matter how clueless, disrespectful, and inept — have the right to access to women’s bodies*

    2.) it also displays the assumption that “seducing” a woman — i.e., getting to know her, developing a relationship, supporting her and earning her trust — is a chore that men only engage in because it might get them some T&A

    3.) finally, the interaction with a woman that the man is seeking is one in which he can totally objectify the woman with the aid of society and technology.

    Therefore, the message as I read it is:

    Men have an inalienable right to access to women’s bodies, and in the eyes of (many) men the goal of society is to make it easier for all men, no matter what, to exercise this right.

    This message is absolutely true (for certain men). Painfully true. Not funny (to me).

    *I’m not trying to minimize the problems that nerdy, intelligent men face or ignore the fact that many women evaluate such men unfairly; I’m just pointing out that nobody has the right to a sex life that involves another person. If a man is so unfortunate as to have difficulty entering into a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship (which, by the way, is not really encapsulated in the phrase “seeing a woman undress”), that’s terrible, but society — much less individual women — don’t owe him love, sex, or affection. (Unlike what “Phantom of the Opera” fan-girls would have us believe.)

  30. #30 Michelle
    May 1, 2010

    Comrade Svilova, Your post at 23 reminded me of what I already had experienced/knew/felt about how annoying and inappropriate persuasion can be in this context. My mind wasn’t making that connection though when I saw the cartoon (obviously).

    I will have to think a bit more about this cartoon implying that men have a right to women’s bodies, though…

  31. #31 Comrade Svilova
    May 1, 2010

    Michelle, I really appreciate the questions you’ve raised, because trying to answer them really helped me analyze my interpretation of the cartoon. One thing I love about these discussions is how much I end up understanding about something that initially seems to be just a random cultural artifact. By hearing others’ interpretations and seeing where I agree and disagree, and then trying to articulate that (ha!), I learn so much.

  32. #32 Endor
    May 3, 2010

    “It seems more of a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to the men.”

    That’s exactly what it is. It’s the “i’d make that uppity bitch who won’t talk me to get nekkid for me, ain’t that hilarious!”

    The fact that they didn’t notice this was a clear implication of rape (as if making women undress would be the end of their mind control tricks), is just par for the course. It’s sexxay and funni!